UK Release Date: 9th March 2018
Runtime: 86 minutes
Director: Brian Taylor
Writer: Brian Taylor
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Lance Henriksen, Robert T Cunningham, Olivia Crocicchia
Synopsis: A strange hysteria descends upon a peaceful and polite suburban neighbourhood, which leaves parents compelled to attack and kill their children in the most violent of ways.
The work of Brian Taylor doesn’t really deal in subtlety. His co-directing gigs with filmmaking partner Mark Neveldine are unhinged works of cinematic madness, propelled by unique visual invention and strange tonal gymnastics. Taylor has gone it alone for his most recent film, Mom and Dad, which is an adrenaline shot of insanity that gives Nicolas Cage the opportunity to let himself out of his – ahem – cage for the first time in a while. Unfortunately, there’s a real lack of impact and none of its strange tricks ever seem to land in the way in which they are intended.
It’s a vintage Taylor premise that lends itself to a short, sharp adventure in the vein of the delightfully stupid Jason Statham vehicle Crank. This time around, Cage and Selma Blair play former punk lovers turned suburban parents Brent and Kendall, who live a tedious life with their two children and the racist caricature of a housekeeper they are somehow able to afford. Some sort of radio static, though it’s never really explained, triggers a hysteria in their neighbourhood and suddenly parents are trying to kill their kids. This leaves Carly (Anne Winters) and Josh (Zackary Arthur) in real danger when Brent and Kendall get home.
What follows is a strange combination of a grindhouse horror movie and the adults versus kids silliness of Home Alone. It’s a riotously distasteful movie with a bad taste premise. Neither of those descriptors are necessarily a bad thing, but Mom and Dad suffers from something of an identity crisis. It’s unsure whether it’s aiming for balls-to-the-wall thriller silliness or a horror movie with a satirical conscience about parenthood and suburbia. The elegant facade of American suburbia has been skewered so often in cinema – most recently in the dreadful Suburbicon – that those satirical swipes are almost ripe for parody themselves.
Taylor doesn’t engage with the thematic ideas in play because, like everything else in the movie, he has been dragged into the powerful orbit of Nicolas Cage. It’s as if the film lost interest in itself the moment Cage became involved and the entire thing just becomes a showcase for his madness, whether he’s flicking his tongue out to lick the rim of a can for no good reason or smashing the holy hell out of a pool table with a sledgehammer while yelling the Hokey Cokey. Cage is full-on barmy here and it’s exceptionally grating for all but the most devout of Cage-aholics.
Such is the wattage of Cage’s bonkers lightbulb, the rest of the cast doesn’t stand a chance. Selma Blair is saddled with a selection of uptight mother stereotypes and some cringe-worthy dialogue about things being “hashtag inappropriate”. She doesn’t have a chance to spread her wings and neither do Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur as the kids, because they’re always playing second fiddle to Cage lumbering around screaming with wide eyes and thrashing limbs. Even a solid gag in the third act fizzles out into another showcase for the maddest man in the movies.
There’s a slapdash feel to everything around Cage’s headline-grabbing turn in Mom and Dad, which is shot and edited like the homework of a lazy schoolkid. It’s a roughly assembled collage of action sequences, randomly interrupted by tedious flashbacks that are presumably supposed to serve as comic interruption, but actually just rob the movie of its momentum. The whole thing culminates in a finale that seems to end just as it’s getting started, ensuring that everyone walks out of the multiplex door with a quizzical look and a sense of profound disappointment. Insanity is fine, but Taylor could’ve done with a smidge of control.
Pop or Poop?
Nicolas Cage is the only thing that matters in this swift, sharp horror-comedy. It has aspirations of being a bad taste cult hit, but all of that falls away in the wake of poorly-lensed action and botched satire. You’ll leave with memories of the silliest Cage freakouts, but everything else will melt away as quickly as the credits roll.
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